Mads Mikkelsen teams up again with Danish auteur Thomas Vinterberg for the anarchic Another Round, the 2021 Academy Award winner for Best International Feature
So here’s the deal, I first saw Another Round last October as part of the BFI London Film Festival and was supposed to review it then, but I decided in the spirit of the film to have a few drinks whilst watching and well, one thing led to another and it never quite got written. Another Round is now, finally, getting a UK general release this weekend and I have been eagerly looking forward to rewatching it. I can truthfully say, with the benefit of some 8 months having passed and given me time to reflect, that this was the most fun I had watching a film in all of 2020.
Another Round features four 40-something high school teachers Martin, Tommy, Peter and Nikolaj – played by Mads Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Lars Ranthe and Magnus Millang. Each are having something of a mid-life crisis, growing bored with their jobs and facing up to the fact that family obligations rob them of the time to have the sort of fun they had together in their youth. When Nikolaj reads a half baked theory about how humans naturally have a lower blood alcohol content than is good for us they embark on an experiment – drinking just enough booze every day at work to raise their blood alcohol level by 0.05%
Things go well at first; the men are more passionate with their students and their families; spontaneous, creative, relaxed and engaging. Their friendships are strengthened as they let loose and do things they haven’t done since they were teenagers, rediscovering a joy for life that each of them had been missing. Rather predictably things start to spin out of control when they develop too much of a taste for drinking and decide to go harder on the experiment. What follows is immaculately well balanced tragicomedy that manages to be both incredibly funny and brutally sobering in parts.
Writer/director Vinterberg adapts Another Round from a stage play of his own writing, the original inspiration for which came from his daughter Ida’s stories about Danish youth drinking culture. He originally wanted to create a story that was “a celebration of alcohol based on the thesis that world history would have been different without alcohol.” Ida was meant to have a small part in the film as Martin’s daughter, however tragically died in a car accident four days into filming. The story was retooled slightly, Vinterberg and co-writer Tobias Lindholm wishing to create a more life-affirming film that drew influence from their own struggles with losing their connection to friends as they grew older.
Despite some of the characters facing very real and serious consequences from their drinking, Another Round is a wonderfully non-judgemental film that successfully conveys the complex impact that drinking culture has on modern society – much of it actually positive if not entirely healthy. The drinking and partying scenes are sometimes reminiscent of the party scenes in The Wolf of Wall Street, so infectiously joyous that it’ll make you wish you were among them having a good time, morning after consequences be damned.
Mikkelsen has been a A-lister in Denmark since the mid-90s and massively underutilised in Hollywood as the go to ‘villain with an accent’ since his turn in Casino Royale in 2006. An enormous and understated talent he is on top form here, his progression from sullen history teacher to mercurial entertainer to washed up drunk and back again masterfully done. His final scene in Another Round has instantly become a cinema classic, the clip circulating heavily on social media when the film was released last year. Do yourself a favour and don’t ruin the surprise by looking it up – it’s a brilliant bit of fun that is best experienced fresh.
The empty glasses had barely been cleared up from this years Oscars before it was announced that Another Round is getting an English language remake starring Leonardo DiCaprio. Vinterberg isn’t precious about remakes, saying it’s interesting to see other interpretations of his works. But given that Another Round is a nigh on perfect film, I remain dubious of the need for it. Both riotous and ponderous, Another Round is a fantastic piece of entertainment with a real, life affirming message beneath the surface. A great ensemble film that is sure to make you want to call up your friends and reconnect over a drink.
Another Round is out in the UK on 2nd July 2021